Letter from our Conference Minister
My friends, What two weeks it has been! Eight killed in Atlanta on the 16th of March. Ten killed in Boulder on Monday! Again, yesterday a shooting was narrowly avoided in Atlanta at Publix as a man was apprehended with 5 guns, wearing body armor. What has happened! How did we get to this place?
We are approaching the time when gathering in person may be possible after more than a year of the COVID pandemic. Now people must be afraid of gunmen, and they have been men, shooting us in public places like supermarkets. The Religion News Service published an article about Christians and guns on March 24, 2021. I excerpt a portion here:
“The gun carnage in this country — seen just in the last few days in the spa shootings in the Atlanta area and a mass shooting at the King Soopers grocery store in Colorado — is not only a horrific social problem, it is also a theological problem, even a theological crisis.
The theological crisis is that white Christian nationalists, in particular, are led to believe that the 'right to bear arms was bestowed upon Americans by God,' as Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association said after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018.
God did not give Americans guns. The gun manufacturers did.”
Now I have written before about guns and gun owners, sharing my Dad’s experience as a hunter and our shared experience with skeet and clay trap shooting. I am not against people owning or using guns. I do believe in the right to own guns. What I cannot accept is the blatant disregard for control over who purchases guns and which guns are purchased. Assault weapons are for just that purpose, assault. One does not hunt with, shoot skeet with, or usually target shoot with an assault weapon. This must stop! The young man who killed ten in Boulder had an assault conviction! How did he have access?
While I believe in consequences for the offenders, the rest of us bear some blame as well. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite who wrote this article calls on us, on us Christians, people of faith, to respond. She writes, “Studies show that Christian nationalist beliefs — that is, the merging of right-wing religious and civil ideologies — are the single greatest indicator of opposition to gun legislation reform.” She reminds us that we in the US will not get gun reform bills passed unless “Christians who know that to say God gives Americans guns is heresy need to be strengthened in their resolve to make this a theological struggle.”
You may be angered by this letter. You may think I have become too political. Yet, my friends, if we are to love our neighbors, we are called to make changes in social policy in order to protect our neighbors, not just to feed, clothe, house, and educate them. We need to pray, certainly; comfort, of course; but we also need to act as citizens and Christians in these days….so we can have a free, just, and reasonably safe existence in this nation.
The beatitudes call us to be peacemakers. We are called by the living and risen Christ to love God and to love our neighbors. We are called to turn swords into plowshares. How will you, will we, work to make this hope for God’s realm a reality.